George Smith is a financial matchmaker. He earns a princely living making matches between scores of lenders and clients buying property ranging from car washes to golf courses. Nearly as well-known is Smith's industry get-together. In its seventh year, 1,750 real estate pros joined Smith for lunch last Oct. 23, selling out the Century Plaza Hotel.
A more intimate crowd from the Orange County Jewish Federation's Real Estate Division ate last month with Smith on the Center Club's avocado-and-onion breakfast special. Judy Brower, Nancy Levy, Paul Fruchbom, Karen Priesman, Steve Rosansky, Michael Saywitz and Robert Teller, among others, came to hear Smith size up industry trends. But he devoted more time to tzedakah, or charity, a subject prospective employees are quizzed about at George Smith Partners Inc.
Smith and his wife, Pam, of Hidden Hills, saiid they donate 15 percent of their annual income. The couple established a foundation to bankroll genetic research that has given away $3.1 million since 1996. Last year alone, the foundation wrote checks totaling $723,556, including grants to Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine, UCLA and Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center.
The Smiths are seeking a cure for ataxia-telangiectasia, an untreatable and fatal genetic disorder that afflicts 500 youngsters in the United States. One of the Smith's four children, Rebecca, has the rare disorder.
Two visiting journalists from Israel circulated locally in recent weeks, sponsored by the local chapter of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). In the Irvine home of Karen and Steve Jaffe, 18-year Jerusalem Post correspondent Herb Keinon on Jan. 22 shared both his personal experience -- as a father raising children in Israel -- and his professional perspective -- as a correspondent who travels with the prime minister and the foreign minister.
Beside current security issues, Keinon discussed Israel's water shortage and the recent agreement to buy water from Turkey.
The following week, Ron Jacobson, a speaker for Israel's consulate and West Coast bureau chief for Channel 1, Israel's national television network, got top billing. In keeping with a group that supports Israel in reservoir building and tree planting, Jacobson spoke at a club near Irvine's San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. About 40 people attended the first JNF event by YOFI, Young Professionals Organized for Israel.
A native of Israel, Batsheva Feldman of JNF San Diego also made a passionate plea for Americans to support Israel and described JNF's projects in Israel.
Jewish retirement home, Heritage Pointe, netted $198,000 from its annual gala, which was held last November in a newly constructed ballroom at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Proceeds will fund rental subsidies for some of the elderly residents of the Mission Viejo facility.
The record-breaking result "is a substantial increase over previous years," said Lorraine Hennessy, the event's chair.